Saturday, September 20, 2014
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2014 World Cup final sets some U.S. TV records, but not all

The U.S. viewership numbers are almost all in for the 2014 World Cup final, and it's official: Germany's 1-0 extra time win over Argentina is the most-watched soccer game in American history.

2014 World Cup final sets some U.S. TV records, but not all

Germany defeated Argentina, 1-0, to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (AP Photo)
Germany defeated Argentina, 1-0, to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (AP Photo)

The U.S. viewership numbers are in for the 2014 World Cup final, and it's official: Germany's 1-0 extra time win over Argentina is the most-watched soccer game in American history.

ABC's national English-language broadcast drew 17,324,000 television viewers and 657,000 online viewers. Locally, WPVI-6 drew a 10.5 rating. That figure is the highest ever seen in the Philadelphia area for any World Cup game ever shown on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. That equates to around 320,000 viewers.

Univision's national Spanish-language broadcast drew 9,234,000 viewers on TV and 99,274 viewers online.

The aggregate total is 27,314,274 viewers, surpassing the U.S.-Portugal group stage game for the all-time audience record.

A reminder that the total does not include viewing parties or other group gatherings. As you may have heard, there were some pretty big ones in our region on Sunday.

Both television viewership totals set records for men's World Cup finals shown on the respective networks. But neither network saw a new overall viewership record.

ABC's most-watched soccer broadcast of all time remains the 1999 Women's World Cup final. Univision's is the Mexico-Netherlands contest in this year's Round of 16.

In fact, Germany-Argentina wasn't the most-watched English-language broadcast in this year's World Cup. That honor remains with the United States national team. ESPN's TV audience for the U.S.-Portugal group stage game was bigger.

When adding in online viewers, Germany-Argentina (17.981 million) also falls below the U.S.-Belgium Round of 16 game. It beats the 1999 Women's World Cup final, but only just.

The updated rankings of the most-watched games ever are below.

For the World Cup as a whole, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC averaged 4,861,000 viewers per game: 4,557,000 on TV and 304,000 online. The television figure alone beats the previous record, set in 2010, by over 1 million viewers per game.

ESPN's public relations department provided historical data going back to 1994, the first year that every World Cup game was broadcast in English on American television:

Year and Host Nation Games Viewers Per Game
2014 Brazil 64 4,557,000
2010 South Africa 64 3,273,000
2006 Germany 64 2,321,000
2002 South Korea/Japan 64 1,043,000
1998 France 64 1,222,000
1994 United States 52 2,801,000

(By the way, many thanks to the PR staffs at ESPN, Univision, Futbol de Primera, CBC and elsewhere for the data they provided throughout the World Cup. There are too many people to name here, but know that lots of fans and journalists appreciated your hard work.)

Now the bar is set for Fox and Telemundo heading into 2018 and 2022. With less favorable time zones in Russia and Qatar, can those two networks break ABC, ESPN and Univision's records? Will the 30 million-viewer barrier be reached?

We'll have to wait four years to find out.

Most-Watched Soccer Games of All Time 

(Games from the 2014 World Cup are in bold) 

English Only

1. United States vs. Portugal 2014 World Cup group stage: 18.710 million viewers on ESPN and online (Sunday, June 22) 1
2. United States vs. Belgium 2014 World Cup round of 16: 18,048 million viewers on ESPN and online (Tuesday, July 1) 2
3. Germany vs. Argentina 2014 World Cup Final: 17.981 million viewers on ABC and online (Sunday, July 13) 3
4. United States vs. China 1999 Women's World Cup final: 17.975 million viewers on ABC (Saturday, July 10)
5. Netherlands vs. Spain 2010 World Cup final: 15,905,000 viewers on ABC (Sunday, July 11)

6. United States vs. Ghana 2010 World Cup round of 16: 15.193 million viewers on ABC (Saturday, June 26)
7. Italy vs. Brazil 1994 World Cup final on ABC: 14.510 million viewers on ABC (Sunday, July 17)
8. Brazil vs. United States 1994 World Cup round of 16: 13.694 million viewers on ABC (Monday, July 4)
9. United States vs. Japan 2011 Women's World Cup final: 13.458 million viewers on ESPN (Sunday, July 17)
10. United States vs. England 2010 World Cup group stage: 13.130 million viewers on ABC (Saturday, June 12)

11. Italy vs. France 2006 World Cup final on ABC: 11.961 million viewers on ABC (Sunday, July 9)
12. United States vs. Germany 2014 group stage: 11.821 million on ESPN and online (Thursday, June 26, 2014) 4
13. United States vs. Ghana 2014 group stage: 11.562 million viewers on ESPN (Monday, June 17, 2014) 5

1 - 18,220,000 on TV; 490,000 on ESPN's website and apps
2 - 16,941,000 on TV; 1,107,000 on ESPN's website and apps
3 - 17,324,000 on TV; 657,000 on ABC and ESPN's website and apps
4 - 10,771,000 on TV; 1,050,000 on ESPN's website and apps
5 - 11,093,000 on TV; 469,000 on ESPN's website and apps

Overall

1. Germany vs. Argentina 2014 World Cup final: 27.314 million viewers on ABC, Univision and online (Sunday, July 13) 1
2. United States vs. Portugal 2014 World Cup group stage: 25.502 million viewers on ESPN, Univision and online (Sunday, June 22) 2
3.
Netherlands vs. Spain 2010 World Cup final: 24.7 million viewers on ABC and Univision (Saturday, July 10)
4. United States vs. Belgium 2014 World Cup round of 16: 23.690 million viewers on ESPN, Univision and online (Tuesday, July 1) 3
5.
United States vs. Ghana 2010 World Cup round of 16: 19.4 million viewers on ABC and Univision (Saturday, June 26)

6. Brazil vs. Italy 1994 World Cup final: 18.1 million viewers on ABC and Univision (Sunday, July 17)
7. United States vs. China 1999 Women's World Cup final: 18.0 million viewers on ABC (Saturday, July 10)
8. Netherlands vs. Mexico 2014 World Cup round of 16: 17.264 million on ESPN, Univision and online (Sunday, June 29) 3
9. United States vs. England 2010 World Cup group stage: 17.1 million on ABC and Univision (Saturday, June 12)

1 - 17,324,000 on ABC; 657,000 on ABC and ESPN's website and apps; 9,234,000 on Univision; 99,274 on Univision's website and apps.
2 - 18,220,000 on ESPN; 490,000 on ESPN's website and apps; 6,544,000 on Univision; 248,000 on Univision's website and apps
3 - 16,941,000 on ESPN; 1,107,000 on ESPN's website and apps; 5,080,000 on Univision; 562,693 on Univision's website and apps
4 - 6,571,000 on ESPN; 10,391,000 on Univision; 302,775 on Univision's website and apps

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Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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